The Psalter: Smartphone of the Soul (revisited)

Note: This article was originally posted over three years ago here at Gentle Reformation. It is re-posted to compliment several of our recent articles on the place of the Psalms in human life.

Smartphones order our lives helpfully, or at least they can. In one tiny device, we carry a phone, a camera, an alarm clock, a web browser, an atlas, a notebook, a mailbox, a calendar, a library, an audio and video player, and a million apps that do everything from forecasting the weather to finding a spouse. Yet, their small screens and tiny keyboards limit their usefulness. These devices certainly fall short of desktop capacity. On the other hand, their portability makes them far more powerful for the user than a desktop most of the time.

These tools enrich life and make it more efficient. Like every great human idea, they simply copy God’s pattern. God gives us everything we need for life and godliness in his book. But, it’s hard to memorize the whole thing, and it’s not always portable. It’s the desktop. So, the Lord placed the smartphone of the soul right in the center of Scripture.  It’s 150 chapters long, and touches every human need. It does not carry all the details of the whole book, but its impact on the soul is often greater.

Paul, writing to the Colossians, highlights the superiority and supremacy of Christ in the first two chapters. Then, he teaches the believers how to live in Christ. Verse 15 says “let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts.” His peace is to rule, order, and direct our hearts. How does this happen? In verse 16, he says: “let the word of Christ dwell in you richly.” Such indwelling occurs as the saints sing “psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs.” Those three words are all titles to the 150 Psalms of the Old Testament. As we sing the Spirit-inspired word of Christ, it rules in our hearts. Verse 17 goes on: “And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.” The following verses flesh out the “everything” in various relationships of life, including the wife/husband, child/parent, and slave/master relationship. The “everything” of life includes prayer, speech, and conduct, as is clear on into chapter four. The Psalms speak to every area of life.

God has given us the whole Scriptures for our aid. But, God created the human heart to respond in special ways to his word set to music. In song, the word of God penetrates the soul. In song, we experience union with Christ. In the throes of life – the crisis moments – it is words set to music that first come to mind. In those moments, we can’t always run to the desktop, but we should have the smartphone of soul embedded in our hearts.

Apple used to use that catchy phrase “there’s an app for that.” Need to send flowers to mom? there’s an app for that. Need to know the name of the constellation of stars in the sky overhead? There’s an app for that. Need supper? There’s an app for that.

Well, whatever your circumstance of life, there’s a Psalm for that:

  • Contemplating origins? Think Psalm 33.
  • Considering the consummation of the age? Think Psalm 149.
  • Rising from bed? Think Psalm 5.
  • Going to bed? Think Psalm 4.
  • Awake at night? Think Psalm 63.
  • Ready to eat? Think Psalm 145.
  • Thirsty? Think Psalm 42.
  • Going to work? Think Psalm 104.
  • Celebrating the Lord’s Day? Think Psalm 122.
  • Checking your genealogy? Think Psalm 16.
  • Your beginning? Think Psalm 139.
  • Your birth? Think Psalm 71.
  • Celebrating a birthday? Think Psalm 104.
  • Enjoying childhood? Think Psalm 34.
  • Need motivation to study well? Think Psalm 111.
  • Gazing at the stars? Think Psalm 19.
  • Maturing as a youth? Think Psalm 119.
  • Ready to pop the question? Think Psalm 45.
  • Bringing children into the world? Think Psalm 128.
  • Questions about parenting? Think Psalm 103.
  • Playing with your grandchildren? Think Psalm 71.
  • Harvest time here? Think Psalm 65.
  • Seasons changing around you? Think Psalm 147.
  • Traveling? Think Psalm 121.
  • On the water? Think Psalm 107.
  • Remembering history? Think Psalm 78.
  • Talking with your financial planner? Think Psalm 49.
  • Tempted by the world? Think Psalm 73.
  • Disappointed by life? Think Psalm 77.
  • Weeping over your sins? Think Psalm 51.
  • Engaged in evangelism? Think Psalm 96.
  • Overcome by fear? Think Psalm 91.
  • Angered by the wickedness of men? Think Psalm 94.
  • Disappointed by civic elections? Think Psalm 2.
  • Rejoicing in the incarnation? Think Psalm 113.
  • Prone to worry? Think Psalm 130.
  • Growing old? Think Psalm 92.
  • Butchering or preparing meat? Think Psalm 8.
  • Going to war? Think Psalm 18.
  • In the process of dying? Think Psalm 6.
  • Mourning the death of a loved one? Think Psalm 116.
  • Anticipating eternity? Think Psalm 73.

Of course, you can add other life experiences to the list. Why is the Psalter the smartphone of the soul? Rowland Prothero notes: “The Book of Psalms contains the whole music of the heart of man, swept by the hand of his Maker. In it are gathered the lyrical burst of his tenderness, the moan of his penance, the pathos of his sorrow, the triumph of his victory, the despair of his defeat, the firmness of his confidence, the rapture of his assured hope. In it is presented the anatomy of all parts of the human soul. In it, as Heine says, are collected ‘sunrise and sunset, birth and death, promise and fulfillment – the whole drama of humanity.’”

Thus, we carry the Psalms in our mental pockets daily. Our minds race here to check for truths, to hear from God, and see our decisions and emotions governed when we cannot access the rest of Scripture. This has been my experience of life…from birthdays, to emergency room visits, to maternity wards, to the graveside, and beyond.

Smartphones are great, but they only go so far. They may reveal where you are in a building, but they cannot reveal what is in your building. They may map the stars in the sky, but they cannot unite you to the maker of the stars. They may point you to bread on earth, but they cannot feed you bread from heaven. The Psalms do all of these things and more. Phone programs fail, contracts expire, and phones are dropped in toilets. The Psalms hidden in the heart will never fail you. They will cause the peace of Christ to rule in your heart. They will order your life. But the Psalms only function this way in the hearts of those who own them.

 

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